Casa, dedicated exclusively to Antonio Carlos Jobim, that Gershwin/Debussy composer maestro of Brazilian song, is about as no-brainer -- and overdue -- a recommendation as they come. The squared sign in the title refers to Paula and Jacques Morelenbaum on voice and cello respectively while Ryuichi Sakamoto handles the black and white keys. Adding to this core trio on certain tracks are Paulo Jobim or Luis Brasil on viola; Zeca Assumpção on bass; Ed Motta duetizing with Paula on "Imagina"; and Marcos Suzano on percussion.
Mixing the melancholia of Portuguese Fado with a sophisticated salon chamber music milieu, Casa is a showcase for extended melodic arcs and clever harmonic impressionist progressions; for down-tempo seduction; for the lyricism of con arco cello and piano poised in balance between Jazz and Classical modes; for the lazily insinuating voice of Paula spinning a web of sunset Eros riding the gentle rhythms of Bossa Nova as first introduced to American audiences by the legendary Stan Getz.
16 compositions, perfectly sequenced and presented to build and deepen a mood of quiet tropical splendor like after a warm summer rain ... it's not often that an album comes along which so seamlessly flows from number to number, one more gorgeous than the next, and to so shamelessly and unapologetically indulge in sheer beauty for beauty's sake. Having a treasure trove like Jobim's song book to pick from certainly helped. Settling on the piano/cello/alto combination merely compounded matters. Concentrating on down-tempo numbers then breaks the cantering camel's back to induce instead a sense of slow-motion flotation which, like that rare movie, takes its time to develop characters and tell a story without any reliance whatever on special effects.
Nostalgia. That one word and everything that spins out from it perfectly capture the tenor of Casa. It's a walk down memory lane, into a shaded sanctuary of timeless adoration. It's a Brazilian version -- with vocals -- of Pat Metheny's famous duet album with Charlie Haden. And like Missouri Skies, it's without a single flaw, woven from the gossamer stuff that our most treasured dreams are made of. It's likely that you already own Casa - this review is admittedly rather late and superseded by much glowing prior press. But in the off chance that you weren't hip to it yet, here's another reminder and invitation to get down and with it. Casa is nothing less than pure perfection, that once-in-a-mine diamond bound to become a legend; that prime destination for all diehard romantics snuggling up to each other in a cabriolet parked by the beach, roof retracted, crowds retired, the sun replaced by darkness and glittering stars...